It’s 6am and after a night of toying with the air con, digesting the pasta party and trying to watch an Anne Hathaway rom-com without dozing off (a feat to compare with completing the Marathon Des Sables in my book), it was time to recce the swim course of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
And, in doing so, it was the first time I’d left the hotel complex in 36-hours. Shameful stuff I know.
This classic Brit abroad behaviour can be put down to jet-lag (read sheer laziness), the sundrenched outdoor pool and a room so big J Lo’s entourage could sleep in it. But I’d also like to add my stint as an undercover reporter into all of this. Hardly Gonzo admittedly, but you can call me McNulty if you like. For, this past couple of days have allowed me an invaluable insight into the life of a pro triathlete. And all the mental preparation, dedication and discipline it involves.
For the casual observer like me, it’s kid-in-a-sweet-shop time – there’s Fraser fixing his bike, Dibens in the lift, Llanos poolside. But, as Eneko explained, when you’re in an unfamiliar city away from your friends and family, it can be a mundane existent.
Choose the right food, skip the poolside Corona, control the taper. It’s the anti-Trainspotting coda. A waiting game. The pre-battle calm punctuated by moments of nerves, self-doubt and frequent questions about the welfare of the precious bike, especially important given what awaits the triathletes at Saturday’s 200km face-off.
Moving onto Saturday’s race, and there’s a palpable excitement in the air. Phil Graves, Raynard Tissink and Bjorn Anderson (see yesterday’s press conference) are all exuding an air of confidence. All clearly aware that this format (3km/200km/20km) plays right into their hands as bike maestros. But, let’s not forget the other disciplines, and that’s exactly what we didn’t do this morning when the gathered press and pros headed to the waterfront Corniche for a recce of the swim course.
Under John Carpenter esque fog, we arrived onto Abu Dhabi’s waterfront, with the skyscrapers submerged and cranes camouflaged. The water, however, was warm, crystal clear and salty, providing buoyancy, especially as this looks like being a non-wetsuit swim. The fog, however atmospheric, could cause the curtailment of the swim, so keep your eyes peeled here on whether the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon will soon become a duathlon.
We’ll also keep you posted on who grabs that $500,000 kitty in the morning and, of course, the large age-group contingent also after a $1,000 winner’s cheque.
Right, back to the pool to practice Dan Bullock’s bilateral breathing techniques. See (truly shameless plug alert) next issue’s 220 for the sessions.